Thursday, March 28, 2013

the torture of being spoiled

It's been so hard to write this, because every time I do my tummy starts to rumble and I head to the kitchen, looking for goodies instead of continuing, but I'll try to explain my situation, the torture of being spoiled…

So there I was, sitting at the Calypso Cantina, flipping through a laminated menu. Passing through all the pages of what I could have, I couldn't pick what I wanted.
"I'll just have what you're having", I finally said with a sigh.
"What have you been eating out there?" Brandon asked.
'Out there' being Casa Cayuco on Bastimentos, it's rare to actually be in town going to restaurants.
"Well you know, whatever Sue makes. I don't have to really decide",  I say gesturing to the menu. I start to gaze off into the distance and get a glazed look in my eyes. "Yesterday, wow she made this really cool thing" my mouth starting to water, "it was so good, it was like mashed potatoes but with garlic and really creamy, but not too creamy, but smooth, and, Oh! The night before that though, there was fish that was fresh caught and she cooked it in these different spices, but it wasn't spicy, but then I added hot sauce. Oh and the appetizers, there were these fresh kind of spring rolls, with…" I feel the saliva building up as I can't quite fully describe one meal before jumping to another. "and the things she does with onions, I'm already a fan of onions, but she makes some that are sweet, oh and garlic aioli, she makes all her own stock and sauces. I like that nothing goes to waste, and..."
"Yes, we're ready" Brandon says to the server I don't realize is waiting behind me.
I close the menu, and remember what Jenn says about 'Cheating on your food' by talking about past meals in front of your present one. I enjoy my meal and can't help but recall a lot of other great things I've eaten.

"Is there anything you haven't liked?" Brandon asks.
"Well…" I have to think for a moment, then again just launch into other distracted monologue of dishes I've loved. "I guess I don't like that I don't really cook for myself anymore." I finally say, admitting that having Sue as a chef I will eat anything without hesitation (even crunch on shrimp with tail and shell on) and I've even enjoyed, and look forward to her pulled pork, alert the veggie police.

Then a break of no guests leaves me alone in the kitchen to fend for myself. I just end up making mostly salads and pasta and Spanish tortilla, with much appreciated emails from Sue about where all the good stuff is, chocolate pudding, babaganush, chips fried in coconut oil. I didn't finish the babaganush because I ate all the chips first, but I did polish off a whole container of the best chocolate pudding I've ever had (excuse me while I go raid the fridge).

I'm often compared to an 18 year old boy for how much I pack away. I just can't refuse great, lovingly prepared, fresh food, I need to eat it. My biggest weakness is cookies, and I try to hold back, but usually any visit to the kitchen has me sniffing on top of the fridge for any extra home made ones, ginger, peanut butter, lemon shortbread, I make it my mission to make sure no cookie goes to waste.

Now, being spoiled at the bar, I can have any cocktail I wish, whenever. I can grab a ginger ale and just walk away. I've gotten so used to just grabbing a drink and walking away, and that's exactly what I did by accident when I went to Bocas.
"I'll have a coke, thanks." I didn't pay, but just took my drink and walked away. Thankfully I hadn't gotten far before I remembered I wasn't at 'home' and promptly walked back to hand over some cash.

Brandon came over Saturday, and as he was eating dinner I realized, "Wow, that's the same thing you had last time, isn't it? That's really unlucky." I stated.
"Really? She doesn't just have a set menu that she repeats?" he asks, as he reaches onto my plate for more, unphased that he's having the same dish twice.
"Ha, no, a few things I've had twice for sure, but it's all based on what she actually has, she can't actually pre-make a weeks menu, she can't predict when someone will catch a Red Snapper or ..."
"I just realized... that's what you had last time, isn't it?" Sue comes over to us and asks.
Brandon makes to nod, "Yeah, but it's great" he says between bites.
"Hmm..." and then a moment later he has a small plate of tiny portions of leftovers, the onions I talked about, a bit of pulled pork, cabbage salad, some kind of garlic patty thing.

Well, lunch has just been served, and I've been tortured by the smell of it for a while, so I'll be heading back to the kitchen...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bloggers Block

So I've had a case of bloggers block over the past weeks. Not for lack of things to say, but really unsure of where to start...

I can tell you about the vine snake that wrapped itself around a nest so that the mama bird wrangled all of her birdy friends to try to annoy it out of the tree. How I ended up grabbing the snake and taking it away with a kayak paddle, to make an alliance of birdy friends...

I can tell you about celebrating the beaux's birthday in Bocas town, meeting two of his awesome friends that showed up as a surprise from Costa Rica, and trying wake boarding on a surf board for the first time...

I can tell you about the amazing weather we've had, absolutely perfect clear blue skies, glassy clear water, and how I enjoyed it all to myself for a few days, working hard... on my tan ;)

Angus trying to take over my hammock when I was in Bocas town

I can tell you about the giant shift in the staff, and the new found excitement to learn English, so that Sue and I are constantly pouring over books, verbs, and odd pronunciations...

I can tell you about how I snapped at someone I love very much, and who I hope is out of my life forever. How that has made me re-evaluate my plans here in Panama, and intrigued me to give another part of the globe a try. How is it I never know where I'll be next...

I can tell you about how very long Anna Karenina is, and how I read Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking in one sitting just to mix it up a little, and then really wanted a martini...

I can also tell you about how absolutely grateful I am to be a part of things here at Casa Cayuco. I am never left wanting, never asked too much, and always left feeling appreciated. My cup is never empty, my tummy always full, and the laughter keeps on coming...

Actually, that's what I want to tell you about most, so stay tuned for "The torture of being spoiled" and what living out here has really done to me!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hammock Hugs

Remember in my last post when I said "No, I do not just sit in a hammock all day"? Well, that may no longer be true. Today, after reading in the hammock on the dock, I came back to the main lodge to receive an awesome surprise. There is now a hammock right in my room!! It's the perfect height to see the 180 degree jungle view around me, blue, and of course very comfy.
I thanked Lloyd and Sue for the new treat, and also warned them (from the hammock) I may never get out of it. I'm even writing this post from the hammock!

A special happy birthday to my dad! 
Feliz cumpleaños Papa! Espero que tengas un día maravilloso, con un montón de vino tinto para olvidar la edad que tengas!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sometimes even hummingbirds get stuck

So tonight I was a little angry-upset. Yup, even on a beautiful island you're allowed to be upset. Well, I went upstairs to my room and flopped on the bed thinking of the online chats that got me into this funk, when buzzing and bumping around me was a beautiful little hummingbird. I have the most open room on the property; I have one full wall, two half walls and one "wall" is actually just a waist-high wood railing. A hummingbird made it's way in and somehow can't figure out how to get out, or doesn't want to leave. I got out of bed and watched it fly around, perching itself on the wood rafters and the close line, then zooming around again. I turned off the lights and still it hasn't left.
I was wondering as I watched this hummingbird fly high with the roof around it, but just 1 foot below has open space waiting for it to fly through, if that could be a metaphor for problems in life.
Could it mean:
a) when we're in a problem that's all we see, not the open space/solutions that surround us

b) sometimes we can bash out heads against the wall, but all we really need to be free is to get outside

c) sometimes we aim our resolutions too high

d) sometimes a there is no higher place to go, there is no high road option, for a problem
e) absolutely nothing, it's just a pretty hummingbird to distract me so that I forget what I was ever in a funk about.
                   ... thanks lil hummingbird

Air Panama, a Pig, and lovely Lemons

Well, it seems I'm overdue for a post. As Jenn would say, I have a huge case of Normalization. I've had a request to write more about my day to day events; what do I do out here?  No, I do not just sit in a hammock all day, but that is how I like to start my day. There's nothing for me quite like making time to read in the morning, with a coffee or tea, listening to lapping water. With my new Kobo Mini I'm able to pick Anna Karenina back up and wow, that Tolstoy knows how to tell a story.
Yesterday was very busy. My day started with buying a newly slaughtered 60lbs pig before 8am. A lovely Panamanian had raised her pig and was ready to sell it to Sue's kitchen. It doesn't get more free range and local than walking distance on a an island trail. I asked Sue if she needed help cutting it up.
"Oh no, it's as easy now as skinning a chicken."
"Actually Sue, I don't know anything about skinning chickens. I was vegan for a few years, and most of the time living on my own, I'm vegetarian."
My grandmother's sister used to own a butcher shop/Polish deli, and my general curiosity of 'how -to', brought me into the kitchen. Cruz commented that it looked like a cooking show, as Sue explained her process, while beautifully separating the main pieces of meat, and instructing Sela on the seasoning.

After that I tried to dye a few things turquoise. Then started the process of carefully peeling without pith, and juicing, 20 lemons, (a rare fruit all the way from David, 4hrs away). The peels went into vodka to make lemonchellos. The fresh juice went to fresh lemonade and cocktails. I checked on cabins for new guests, and filled some gaps that were noticed. I helped at the bar with dinner service as Lloyd was still in Bocas awaiting the new arrivals. Sue kept here ears to the sky, hoping to hear a plane that was supposed to be arriving around 5pm, but didn't pass until 7:30pm.

Air Panama, the airline responsible for delaying tourists coming to Bocas since 2006, pushed the limits on yesterdays delays. Telling passengers that 'the plane broke down' (which probably means the staff was on a break at the bar), turned an hour plane trip into a two and a half hour delay, is not a fun stop for any traveler, especially when sun and beach and good food are calling. Since the Bocas 'airport' got lights, Air Panama has used that as an excuse to make planes even farther off their mark. You'd think an airline that has the same two daily flight times everyday, for years, would have figured out how to be on time, not the case. Their excuses get more colorful, and people living here have gotten used to just waiting around Bocas town, and only walking to the airport once they hear the plane pass overhead.

Normally I'm not fussed when planes are delayed, things do happen every now and again, but arriving late to the island of Bocas, means that tourists have to then get to their destinations in the dark. For Casa Cayuco that means driving the boat in the dark. Lloyd is a pro at it, but that doesn't mean it's fun. The boat has to slow down so no one in a cayuco (hollowed out tree canoes) who is night fishing, with no lights, don't get hit or hurt, adding more travel time to the already 45minute ride. Not to mention newcomers don't get to see the collection of mangroves they pass through. Thankfully last night was a beautifully starry night with some good bio-luminescence. It's really unfortunate though that Air Panama can't get their act together, no matter how many complaints are filed, see Air Panama is killing me and their customer satisfaction reviews, a whopping 1.3 out of 5.

So those are most of the highlights of yesterday, gotta get back to it.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Dirt Under My Nails

Being back home in Toronto, sitting with my dad at the dinner table, he commented on the dirt under my fingernails. I let out a big laugh. I had just been admiring how clean my nails looked, probably the cleanest in months. A few days before I had been talking with Sue about how hard it it to keep nails nice in the jungle.

Being in the city for 6 weeks, my nails were nicely kept. I didn't even really need to make an effort, as there was nothing around to make them dirty. Yesterday afternoon, I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair unkempt, despite having put it in a tidy braid a few hours before. My white shirt was stained, despite having worn it without harm for a few summers in the city, and only having it on for a few hours in the jungle. My legs were smeared with mud even though I washed them off before coming upstairs, and my nails... My nails were black with dirt, and I was happy.

When the clouds parted for a little while, Sue had taken me through the back trail, to pick some water apples for the evenings dessert (imagine a radish, shaped like a pear, that tastes like a water logged granny smith apple). It had been raining a lot the day before, and in spurts yesterday, so a part of the trail was ankle deep, swampy mud. When we got to the tree, Sue found the large stick that passers by use for poking the fruit off the high branches, that can be found nearby most fruit trees. I felt like a wide receiver on a football team, waiting for the ball to drop. I was standing at the ready as apples were falling from ten foot high branches. I had to lunge on a few occasions, trying to catch the apple that came loose, before it could drop into the mud and fallen fermented fruit below. Once we bagged enough for the nights desert, we left the giant tree, and headed back to Casa Cayuco.

The dessert was absolutely delicious, Sue turned the water apples into an apple crisp with a warm caramel sauce. There was a special bowl with a sparkler for a special birthday guest. Some of the guests stayed around the table after dinner for the birthday, and we all played a hilarious game of Cards Against Humanity (we've only played the game once before with guests). It was a great way to be welcomed back to Casa Cayuco, and I can't wait to see what happens next!